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Inside Out: Jessica Beshir

By Jessica Beshir

Shooting Faya Dayi without a crew in rural Ethiopia, where walking long distances was the only way to arrive at my locations, taught me something about the joys of traveling light. In a sense, all my gear choices were a response to this specific challenge, starting with the bag. Once I stripped my equipment to the bare essentials, I used my Kata Pro-Light bag, which fit all my sound and camera gear, as well as my computer and portable mini hard drives, and is a super comfortable bag to wear with padded shoulder and waist straps. It made all the difference and has lasted me over 10 years!

I found my Vari-ND to be an essential tool for all my outdoor vérité shoots, as it allowed me to work with changing light when I had no time to change filters. My rechargeable AA batteries also proved essential for all my audio needs, given that there were no other long-lasting batteries available to buy. 

As for lenses, I used my Soligor 20mm f/2.8 and my Nikkor 35mm f/2 primes for most of the landscapes and some interiors. My Canon 24-70mm served me well for most of my vérité shoots, but the one I kept going back to was my Zeiss planar 50mm f/1.4.

Pictured here is my custom-made shoulder rig, which I can’t live without. It is so light that the camera feels like an extension of me. It allowed me to be in communion with the people I was filming and to move around freely. It folds in half, and I latch it onto my camera bag. 

Shooting in remote places where no piece of gear is easily replaceable taught me how to organize and care for my gear. Checklisting and cleaning my equipment and charging all batteries while downloading footage after every shoot became my unwinding ritual that allowed me to always be ready and keep using the same gear for years. 

An array of items that Jessica Beshir takes along in her Kata Pro-Light camera bag when she's in production.

  1. Shoulder Rig
  2. Portable Hard Drives
  3. Rode Shotgun Mic 
  4. Sennheiser Shotgun Mic 
  5. Boom Pole 
  6. Media Cards
  7. Card Reader 
  8. Sony Headphones 
  9. Zoom H4n
  10. Zoom H4n Charger
  11. Follow Focus
  12. Notebook
  13. Canon LC-E6 Charger
  14. Canon LP-E6
  15. Tiffen Vari ND 77mm
  16. 12 Pack Rechargeable Batteries
  17. Soligor 20mm f/2.8
  18. Nikkor 35mm f/2
  19. Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4
  20. Gear Belt
  21. Sennheiser Wireless 
  22. Sennheiser Wireless 
  23. COS 11 XPTS Sanken Lav
  24. Lav Mic Accessories Box
  25. XLR Splitter Cables
  26. Canon 5D MK IV
  27. Gaffer Tape
  28. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8
  29. Power Adapter
  30. Uniball Pens

Jessica Beshir is a Mexican-Ethiopian filmmaker, producer, and cinematographer based in Brooklyn. Her debut feature documentary, Faya Dayi, earned the Grand Prix at Visions du Réel 2021 and the IDA Documentary Award for Best Cinematography and was shortlisted for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar.